This newspaper argued against the Legacy funding constitutional amendment on the grounds that it would tie the hands of the Minnesota Legislature during challenging economic times. The voters saw it differently and approved the measure to raise the sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent to supplement spending on conservation and (to a lesser degree) arts projects. So be it.
Since the voters have spoken, however, we fully back the efforts of both arts and conservation supporters who intend to hold the Legislature accountable to follow the constitutional amendment. They cite instances where state budgets for conservation were severely cut and then later backfilled with money from the Legacy fund. That was not the intent of the amendment. The amendment clearly stated the Legacy funds “must supplement traditional sources of funding for these purposes and may not be used as a substitute.
A lousy economy and state budget deficit that forced a three-week shutdown wreaked havoc on state budgets so it was reasonable to expect that budget slashing would ensue. Perhaps we’ll get a clearer picture of the Legislature’s actions when the economy and state budgets stabilize. Until then we’re glad people such as Paul Austin, director of Conservation Minnesota, are pointing out that Minnesotans who backed the popular amendment did not intend to tax themselves so they could do the same or less for worthwhile environmental causes.